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Should the Knicks consider an RJ Barrett trade for Donovan Mitchell?

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In a twitter post from New York Basketball, Stephen A Smith suggested the Utah Jazz had interest in a Donovan Mitchell trade that included RJ Barrett. A late inclusion to the deal.

To this point, commentary around the league has been the Jazz do not want to commit to Barrett long term. He will be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at the end of the 2023 season. All expectations are that he will receive a max extension worth $185million over 5 years, according to The Athletic.

During the interview with NBA Radio, Smith stated that he heard the asking price from Utah is RJ Barrett, and upward of 6 first round picks. An exorbitant number! He agrees this is too much to give up, but said “the Knicks would be willing to give up as much as 4 first round picks,” and that he would do that trade.

It seems the market has been bloated following the Rudy Gobert trade. Following that trade, Smith proposed that “now teams need to get more.” Not good timing for the Knicks. Although, timing has never been the Knicks strong suit.

Where does the Donovan Mitchell trade stand?

Trade talks between the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz for Donovan Mitchell have stalled. Both teams have had countless discussions surrounding a potential deal, however the current roadblock is Quentin Grimes. The Knicks do not want to include him in the deal.

In an interview on ESPN 700, Tony Jones suggested that a deal between the two sides will likely get done, but will require the Knicks improving their offer to meet the Jazz. Ultimately including Grimes. As of today, the best offer on the table “involved a number of first-round picks, but most of them were protected rather than unprotected,” Jones said. One important note is that the Knicks are amenable to trading Obi Toppin.

Related: Unlocking the Key Differences: Understanding Restricted vs Unrestricted NBA Free Agency

“The one player that [the Knicks] are trying not to put in the deal is Quentin Grimes. They don’t want Quentin Grimes in the deal under any circumstance. And the No. 1 player that the Jazz want in the deal is Quentin Grimes. And I get the sense that the Jazz are really hesitant to do a deal that doesn’t have Quentin Grimes in it. I can tell you that the Knicks are amenable to giving the Jazz Obi Toppin, who’s a really young and high-energy, high-ceiling power forward, but Quentin Grimes is a major sticking point at this point.”

Tony Jones – ESPN 700

The belief around the league today is if he is traded, he’s going to the New York Knicks.

What’s the potential impact of this deal?

Donovan Mitchell is a formidable, dynamic and franchise altering talent. He has proven himself on the biggest stage in the NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately, players with this level of skill do not come cheap. They require a haul. Meaning something has to give, and I suspect that will be the Knicks.

Quentin Grimes continued development

Quentin Grimes continues to improve. This is not lost on the league. His ascension to being the sticking point in a deal for Mitchell has come off the back of his performance in the Summer League. At 6-5, 205lb, he can shoot the 3 reliably and make good decisions with the ball in his hands, he is not merely a catch and shoot player.

As a talent drafted by the Knicks, Grimes has tremendous upside, although, should that upside be the reason the Knicks decide not to move forward with a deal for Mitchell. I’m not sure about that. Potential can only take a team so far, and at the end of the day, building a team to compete for a championship requires top tier, superstar talent.

The Knicks have done a tremendous job acquiring the assets necessary to make this deal happen. They are essentially the only team with the ability to make this deal happen. If the Knicks move forward with the deal, that is a big first step in building that championship team.

The reality is if we move forward with a deal for Mitchell, we will exhaust our safe of assets. If the Knicks decide not to pursue the deal, the rebuild continues. RJ Barrett will be the cornerstone, and the Knicks will continue to build their war chest young potential and picks.

Should the Knicks trade RJ Barrett?

In my opinion, the Knicks should not do an RJ Barrett trade and give up the haul of picks.

Donovan Mitchell is a star and will be 26 at the beginning of the season. He is better than RJ Barrett right now. No one will argue this point. But sending RJ to Utah in the deal for Mitchell, will leave him with a depleted roster and significantly less assets to help build it back.

Knicks will have limited ways to improve following trade

Mitchell will not be able to carry the Knicks to the playoffs on his own. It will take more than Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson. With no Barrett and limited assets to facilitate trades, the Knicks will be forced to rely on Free Agency. A task proven impossible for the Knicks. Whilst Mitchell has better chances of bringing another superstar, New York is no longer the free agent destination it once was. Making this a risky move.

Now the case to keep RJ Barrett. He is 22 years old and continuing to improve. In the 2021-22 season, he averaged 20 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3 assists per game. His shooting percentages did regress from the year prior, but the offense was not as fluid and he took more 3 point shots.

RJ Barrett’s strong mentality

Barrett has the work ethic and willingness to get better. I believe he has the potential to be better than Mitchell. At 22 and with a haul of picks, the Knicks can bet on growth from their young star and core group. Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish, Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley can all improve. Adding key pieces, such as Jalen Brunson, should see the Knicks improve their win / loss record, allowing for stability and making New York a more viable destination for free agents.

The Knicks need a star, this is true, but a disgruntled superstar is a dime a dozen. There will be many opportunities to trade for top talent. If the team has the assets.

Building the Knicks young core

If New York can avoid an RJ Barrett trade and keep some combination of its young core, moving only 4 to 5 picks, that is a deal that should be done. A deal for Mitchell, a top 30-25 player, with no reinforcements and hoping to sign a free agent is an imperfect plan. The New York Knicks are not a free agent destination. Therefore, with no picks and limited cap space, there is no clear path to improve the roster. They will become the Indiana Pacers. Toiling in the marshes of mediocrity. A quality 6 or 7 seed, never a chance.

There is also the consideration of who are the free agents hitting free agency. A top tier talent would need to be paired with Mitchell to take a milestone step forward.

There is certainly a case to hand over the keys to the treasure chest to the Jazz for Mitchell. Just do the deal! Although, if the goal is to win championships, it is going to require a team. Mitchell is not LeBron James, he will need far more support to be successful.

We hope to do a deeper dive into the productivity of RJ Barrett in the near future. Giving Knicks fans a detailed overview of how he has progressed and where he can improve.

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